Wednesday, September 14, 2016

618: Spinoza and Descartes

Yesterday I sat on a terrace in Leiden. I had a clear view at the historic building of the University of Leiden, which Spinoza must have visited.
Sometime between 1656 and 1661 it appears that Spinoza did some formal study of philosophy at the University of Leiden. 
The Dutch Republic was the first place where Cartesianism took hold, having been introduced in 1640 by Regius, 
a professor of medicine at the University of Utrecht. Cartesianism, however, was highly controversial.
In 1642 the university forbade the teaching of Cartesianism. Later in the 1640s there were similar controversies at the University of Leiden. 
In 1646 Heereboord, a professor of logic at that university, defended the Cartesian method of doubt as a way of achieving certainty. 
Revius, a professor of theology at Leiden, replied that the method of doubt would lead to atheism…
There is the big word again: Atheism. Get your philosophy associated with that and you were a “dead” man in those days.
As you see in our timetable Descartes died, when Spinoza was only 28. And , of course, he took part in the discourse about Descartes’ philosophical ideas.
Descartes wanted to formulate absolute certainty as a foundation for science. He found this in what he called “clear and distinct” perceptions.
Even when he would be deceived constantly by some malicious demon, he can not deceive us about the fact that we think, which leads to the indubitable certainty of our existence.
These clear and distinct perceptions are only indubitable so long as he is attending to them, Descartes thought.  As soon as they fall out of awareness, the doubt can creep back in. 
Once again, he can begin to wonder whether it was an evil demon who caused him to believe in the certainty of these truths. 
Descartes' solution is to bring God into the picture. By proving that God is the cause of our clear and distinct perception, 
and that, further, God is perfect in every way and thus no deceiver, he will be able to secure lasting certainty for clear and distinct perceptions.
Descartes uses what is called the ontological argument. It has shown up in many forms already during history and still is used.
His argument goes as follows: (1) Our idea of God is of a perfect being, (2) it is more perfect to exist than not to exist, (3) therefore, God must exist.
In Descartes’ days it was an obvious matter, that everybody had an idea of god in his mind. However, nowadays reality shows something different.
We do not all have a clear and distinct innate idea of God as a being of infinite perfection. The only people 
who have this idea are those who were raised in cultures where the notion of a single and perfect supreme being was prevalent.
Descartes believed that we cannot fail to have this idea, because he thinks it is innate. Because our idea of God is of an infinite being, it must have infinite objective reality. 
Next, Descartes appeals to an innate logical principle: something cannot come from nothing, which brings us to a quintessential philosophical issue of those days: causality.  

Our clear and distinct ideas are the effects of a cause, which however is also an effect of another cause which cause is…….ad infinitum.
For some reason philosophers felt forced to assume that reality was a continuous sequence of cause and effect.
Understandable, when this belief already existed among the old Greek philosophers. besides that, in a way this assumption was confirmed by the calculable causal behaviour of the planets.
Somewhere in time there had to have been the first push to set the machinery in motion, was a reasonable assumption in those days.
So there had to be a first cause and what is a better candidate for that then the uncaused cause, that is, god.
Of course this is just in a nutshell one of the numerous points of debat in those days and I guess Spinoza wasn’t satisfied with the answers Descartes thought of.
To mention just on other hot issue: how and why did a perfect god create an imperfect being, as man is, if he could have done better?
Spinoza wasn’t an admirer of such a god and probably neither of Descartes’ solution for this problem.
Thank you…feel free to ask questions or add your thoughts to our discussion… ^_^
Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Dan Garrett, (ed.), “Cambridge Companion to Spinoza” (2001)

The Discussion

[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i dont see that in these past 400 years the question has changed that much
[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): or the discussion
[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): maybe ways of looking at it
[13:23] herman Bergson: I wonder....
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm
[13:23] herman Bergson: the absolute causality...the idea of a first mover....
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): still prevails
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): like the big bangtheory
[13:24] herman Bergson: to contradict that they immediately will yell QUANTM MECHANICS ^_^
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): lol
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): maybe
[13:24] herman Bergson: Everybody knows that the big bang theories just a metaphor...
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): but even many of those scientists still have the first mover in the bak of their heads
[13:24] herman Bergson: at least in my opinion.....
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): no one can be sure if thats ever happened, like dark matter
[13:25] herman Bergson: yes Gemma.....but that is because of the cognitive limitations of our brain
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): still they are sure 90 % of everything in universe is something we cant see feel or measure, otherwise galaxies would fly apart
[13:25] Ciska Riverstone: @gemma - yes they just scale it down ;)
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): or is it just a grave miscalculation?
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but we cant have done that when scientists are so sure
[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hope they figure that part out before we die
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): but i doubt it
[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: me too
[13:26] CB Axel: I wouldn't hold my breath. °͜°
[13:26] herman Bergson: But we see the world as our brain let's us see it....
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:26] herman Bergson: Evolutionary it is enough to survive...
[13:27] herman Bergson: Kant already felt the problem.....
[13:27] herman Bergson: Like the empiricists....
[13:27] herman Bergson: our only reality is our sensory experience....
[13:27] herman Bergson: which we interpret....
[13:28] herman Bergson: and we deduce from them our conclusions....
[13:28] herman Bergson: Descartes mistrusted all sensory experience....
[13:28] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:28] herman Bergson: can all be a dream.....
[13:28] herman Bergson: or illusion....
[13:29] CB Axel: If this is a dream, I hope I wake up soon.
[13:29] Ciska Riverstone: well he is pretty much a prethinker of what brain researchers are testing in some parts ;)
[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): too late i think
[13:29] herman Bergson: and thence he believed in what the brain did....THINK....that is existence
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we live in the MATRIX!
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): lol
[13:29] CB Axel: The problems with relying only on our senses is that they're so limited.
[13:30] CB Axel: I wonder what philosopher butterflies talk about.
[13:30] herman Bergson: That was indeed  toying with such philosophical ambiguities Bejiita :-)
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I guess so
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: hehehe cb
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:30] herman Bergson: None i can say, CB
[13:31] herman Bergson: Unless they are in your stomach :-)
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): the idea that created the Matrix series is indeed old
[13:31] CB Axel: They have such a different view of the world being able to see into the infrared.
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but those films were an eye opener for this concept in general for most of us
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes and some in ultraviolet too
[13:32] herman Bergson: But they are not conscious of their existence CB
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and dogs hear higher frequencies then we do
[13:32] CB Axel: Did they tell you that? LOL
[13:32] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and sure smell much better
[13:32] herman Bergson: Not a single butterfly can say...Hey I see the world
[13:32] herman Bergson: In a way yes...^_^
[13:33] CB Axel: But our view of the world is limited by our limited senses.
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: or in that case to our language ;)
[13:33] herman Bergson: unless you have an animistic worldview any biologist can show you why butterflies don't talk philosophy :-)
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone whispers: is consciousness only there when it can be expressed in language as we know it?
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): but we can do so much more with all the information we get
[13:33] CB Axel: OK. I'll give you that one.
[13:34] herman Bergson: That depends on how you define consciousness Ciska
[13:34] CB Axel: I didn't get much sleep last night, so my brain isn't working well today.
[13:34] herman Bergson: All kinds of animals have some level of consciousness....
[13:35] herman Bergson: that is already a proven fact
[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): some of it is amazing
[13:35] Ciska Riverstone: jup but its hard  to say then if butterflies are discussing or are conscious when they use other forms of languages
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:35] Ciska Riverstone: it is
[13:35] herman Bergson: But only homo sapiens can reflect on his behaviour and wonder whether it is right or wrong what he does
[13:36] herman Bergson: Not a single other organism has that level of consciousness but we
[13:36] CB Axel: I can't believe we're discussing butterfly philosophy. I apologize for getting us into this.
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its strange that it is so in a way
[13:36] CB Axel: LOL
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ha
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and only we can speak, all other animals have only one single soind like WOOF WOOOF or MIAU MIAU
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): they cant say anything else
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): not really
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): so how can they communicate?
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): they all seem to have a language
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): theier own
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): that they communicate with one another
[13:37] herman Bergson: Theey communicate Bejiita....
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:37] CB Axel: My cats had a large vocabulary. They made all kinds of sounds. But let's not get into cat philosophy!
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): whales
[13:37] herman Bergson: for instance n the mating season.....but these are patterns of communication based on instinct...
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): millions of sounds each meaning something
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): to each other
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess in some way they make patterns of some sort
[13:38] CB Axel: Animals communicate via body language, pheromones, and sounds.
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and baby animals KNOW their own parents by sound
[13:38] CB Axel: Surely you don't only communicate with spoken, or even typed, language.
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes but not a single animal thinks...come on, let's do it in a different way for a change
[13:39] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Apes do
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i agree
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): they do think
[13:39] herman Bergson: To some extend yes
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes...they even can be self aware...
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): dogs can understand what you say to them
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least some
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hwo did we get here
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): what happened to descartes
[13:40] herman Bergson: But ok...we are a but off track now :-)
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): he got stuck in the collider
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): lol
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): turning into dark matter
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:41] herman Bergson: What will be our next question is, what did Spinoza do with that god of Descartes :-)
[13:41] Chantal (nymf.hathaway):
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah now thats a good question indeed
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i am sure we will find ot
[13:41] herman Bergson: I can tell you that his ideas are very interesting regarding this issue....
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess Descartes believe in god but Spinoza does not if I get it right
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): next lesson
[13:42] CB Axel: Or Descartes was afraid to say he didn't believe in a god.
[13:42] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): yes
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aaa can be like that too so he weaved god in nicley in his ideas
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well problem with this period is that this idea of a god....and a specific god too, is so deep in the system....
[13:42] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): not all were hero's like socrates
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: maybe descartes just believed in a a cause ;)
[13:43] herman Bergson: even today......
[13:43] herman Bergson: As Gemma said....same old story here ^_^
[13:43] herman Bergson: And yet I don't believe that
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed, in 2016 we should know better then bellieve in anything but science and fact, not supernatural ghosts
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): people said that a long time ago
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): *¨¨*<♥*''*BEJIITA!!! *''*<♥:*¨¨*
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): still this is how it is in many parts of the world today
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): l'histoire se repĂȘte
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): it is 1200 how can we believe in ghosts
[13:44] herman Bergson: It is easily said Bejiita, but it might take  another 300 years before it makes sense to all people
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): if i see a ghost and can prove its not a dream i bellieve it, but i need proof
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): that this really is the case
[13:45] CB Axel: I thought it was funny that Revius was afraid that the method of doubt would lead to atheism.
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and so far i have dreamt about ghosts but never seen one myself
[13:45] CB Axel: It's like he was admitting that he couldn't prove there was a god.
[13:45] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): I agree CB
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): well no one really can
[13:45] herman Bergson: His fear was more related to the debate on how a perfect god could create such  an imperfect human
[13:46] CB Axel: Ah.
[13:46] herman Bergson: and Descartes said that god didnt do that....
[13:46] CB Axel: My argument would be that God was just messing with us.
[13:46] herman Bergson: this imperfection is the result of our free will....
[13:46] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): he must have humour
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): like a crazy professor mixing chemicals until it goes KABOOOOM
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:46] herman Bergson: if we can control all our vices etc. we would be perfect as human being :-)
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:47] herman Bergson: What Descartes forgot to tell us was, WHO created that free will option in us?
[13:47] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): we would all be boring
[13:47] CB Axel: I agree, Gemma.
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe this earth is just a test, see what will happen when he created imperfection
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:48] CB Axel: We are the beta version, Beertje?
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes
[13:48] herman Bergson: So we may conclude that god did a fine job creating us so just for our amusement :-))
[13:48] CB Axel: Or even alpha.
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :)
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): it would be boring if we were perfect
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): perfect
[13:49] herman Bergson: Perfect Beertje ^_^
[13:49] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): and perfect according to...?
[13:49] CB Axel: We'd certainly have far fewer typos.
[13:49] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): in all ways Chantal
[13:49] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): CB
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): that is true
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes indeed Chantal
[13:49] herman Bergson: And what is that PREFECT god supposed to be....?
[13:49] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): but by who's standards Beertje?
[13:49] herman Bergson: the word is easily used, but impossible to define
[13:49] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): mine ;......grins
[13:49] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:49] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): :)))
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:50] herman Bergson: You're not a bad model, Beertje :-)
[13:50] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :)))
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed not
[13:50] herman Bergson: But I don’t want to start a modelling competition here....:-)
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:51] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): and gosh are we all glad to know you Beertje... we have a few ideas about perfection too... will mail them to you
[13:51] CB Axel: lol
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): YAY! (yay!)
[13:51] herman Bergson: SO we better conclude that we need another lecture on Spinoza :-)
[13:51] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i will give you my mail address:)))))
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we sure do
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): many
[13:51] Ciska Riverstone: heheh
[13:51] Ciska Riverstone APPLAUDS!!!
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): this is gettting good
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:51] herman Bergson: and your sizes, Beertje:-)
[13:51] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Thank you, Herman great one
[13:51] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): hahahahah
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thank you all again :-)
[13:52] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): see you all thursday i hope
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we do
[13:52] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bye for now
[13:52] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...^_^
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):

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